A story, attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, recounts his time working alongside an archaeologist who began to ask Kurt questions about his life and his interests. Kurt commented on his activities such as choir, literature, learning an instrument. Yet Kurt felt like he had failed because he had not achieved a level of success in his endeavours. The archeologist offered a new insight for the young man: is not the point of doing these things the enjoyment of them, not necessarily their mastery?
This is an issue I have grappled with recently as I reset my writing goals for the end of this year and into 2021. What is more important: enjoyment or mastery?
Why not both.
I want my writing to be mastered while my art is to be enjoyed.
Each purpose requires a different set of disciplines, parameters, goals and objectives.
The pursuit of a publishing deal is not in itself a bad thing, and it is something I want dearly (better do my homework and get the work done). Will I be happy, or perhaps satisfied is a better term to use, if that dream does not become a reality? I don’t know. Will I be proud of producing quality work for myself and The JAR Writers’ Collective? Absolutely. There is not a single path to take me where I want to go.
What is required of me is to have due diligence and to do the work. I want to enjoy the writing, be engaged in the process of creating stories, keep the desire to improve, and not lose the love of writing which would be so easily lost if all I focused on was pursuing publishing goals.
Will I look back at stacks of journals and artist’s sketch books and mourn what wasn’t or will I extol the journey I went on to write and draw because it was fun and I enjoyed it? I want it to be the latter.
What Will I Leave Behind?
- Notebooks. Lots of notebooks filled with scribbled sentences, half-drawn characters, false starts, promising endings, ideas I can no longer reconcile with who I am, ideas that are too much of who I am, a labyrinth of dead end paragraphs and enough adverbs to find my way out.
- Published Works. Works I have written that have been put out into the world either via self-pubishing, through indie press, a larger publishing house, and works I have had a hand in bringing forth to fruition.
- A library of books. Books of my own, books gifted to me, books on loan, books to learn from.
- Sketch books. Pages full of failed experiments, successful attempts, interesting images, random scribbles.
- An appreciation of what art can do for people as a creative outlet that does not have to be about monetisation but purely for the love of creating.
- Pens. Lots and lots of pens. And pencils and markers and highlighters and erasers and sharpeners.
The detritus of a creative life. The flotsam and jetsam of activities I poured myself into for different reasons, for different purposes and different expectations.
I may have only reached one person with a story, or with a piece of art. I may have given away drawings or stories to people who connected with them. People may have paid for my stories or for my art.
Will it be worth it?
I think it will be.
And I am ok with that.
I think success and mastery are two very different things. One can be a master of something but still not be considered successful (if the metrics are how much one sells, how much exposure ones work has, how much one sells of ones work).
Mastery is about a commitment to growth. Sometimes think success is a commitment to be seen?!